Ontario Doctors Say Fee Cuts Will Turn Doctors Away

May 9, 2012 Updated: May 10, 2012

The Ontario Medical Association is saying the provincial government has “turned their back” on the province’s physicians by imposing cuts to some of the fees paid to doctors this week.

“The message from the McGuinty government to our medical graduates and doctors who might think of returning to Ontario is clear—we don’t value your input in our health care system,” Dr. Doug Weir, president of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), said in a statement.

Weir said the announced cuts mean that Ontario doctors will start considering moving out of the province.

Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Deb Matthews announced on Monday that the province is going ahead with cuts to some of the fees paid under the $11 billion Ontario Health Insurance Plan after failing to reach a deal with doctors.

“Our doctors are the best paid in Canada. Instead of another raise for doctors, we need a real wage freeze so we can invest in more home care,” Matthews said in a statement.

“To hold the line on doctor pay, we’re making changes to fees for physician services to reflect advances in technology and the latest medical evidence on what helps patients most.”

The government says introduction of new technology has reduced the time needed for certain procedures while the costs of the procedures have remained the same. Cataract surgery, for example, now could take as little as 15 minutes to perform, compared to two hours a few years back, and so the fee for this operation will be reduced from $441 to $397.75.

Among the planned cuts are reductions to the $88 million spent on self-referrals, under which a patient is sent back to the doctor’s practice for an additional procedure. With the new changes, payments for some diagnostic tests such as X-rays and ultrasounds will be cut in half if the same doctor orders and performs the test.

Fees will also be reduced for diagnostic radiology tests such as CT and MRI scans as well as eye injections for retinal diseases since technology has reduced the time required for these operations, the government says.

Doctors are also told to perform fewer echocardiograms, which have been found not to improve patient outcomes before routine non-cardiac surgery.

Ontario’s doctors earn an average of $385,000 per year, with over 400 making more than $1 million a year.

With the introduction of the fee cuts, which came into effect on April 1, the government plans to save $338.3 million in 2012-13 and invest this money into community care nurses and home care services.

Negotiations between the OMA and the province for a new contract, which has lasted for weeks, reached an impasse on Sunday ahead of the government’s latest announcement on Monday.

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